Throughout the novel, Americana, Don DeLillo develops the character of David Bell as a man who has both a very high opinion of himself and also low self-esteem. David narrates the story and will often describe his above-average attractiveness or his importance in the lives of others; while other times David needs gratification from others to prove his self-worth. As the story develops, we learn that much of this contradiction stems from David’s relationship with his father.
A recurring theme in the character of David Bell is his inflated opinion of himself. Chapter Two begins with David stating, “I was an extremely handsome young man” (DeLillo 2.11). David continues to describe his appearance in an almost scientific manner that would appear to be simply a factual statement. When David equates his relationship with his mirror as therapeutic, however, we see how much he stakes his opinion of himself on the way he looks. “I was blue-eyed David Bell. Obviously my life depended on this fact” (DeLillo 2.11).
David also sees himself as having a great deal of influence on others and prides himself on that fact. When David was walking along the street with a coworker, a girl mistook him for a celebrity and David found it amusing to play along. David’s narration describes that the coworker was not amused by this joke and “avoided [David] for the next six months” (DeLillo 2.14). Once David sees the influence his appearance and pride could have on one coworker, he believes that he needs to change his entire demeanor at work. “After that I did my best to be exceedingly humble and withdrawing. I felt it was essential to the well-being of others” (DeLillo 2.14).
When David was younger, his father encouraged David’s ego. When David’s sister, Jane, brought home her boyfriend, Bob, David played a game of tennis with Bob and quickly discovered that he was better than Bob. Although David began the game going easy on Bob, his father wanted him to destroy Bob. “’I want you to whip his ass. I want you to beat him in straight sets. I want to walk into the house later and tell them it was no contest’” (DeLillo 6.151). As David grew up, this lesson from his father stayed with him and fed his need to prove his...